Sunfire front end "clunk"

Bode13Bode13 Member Posts: 19
edited April 2014 in Pontiac
I have a 1996 Sunfire SE Convertible which is red, but should by all accounts be painted LEMON yellow.

The latest trial and tribulation (in a long list of such) is a clunking noise coming from mostly the front left side when going at very slow speeds over rough surfaces or sharp bumps.

The mechanic I took it to thought initially it would be a broken bolt on the anti-sway bar, but it was not. He then found a TSB that said the rack and pinion might be the culprit. Since I'd been hearing a click or knocking sound when turning the steering wheel back and forth while the car was sitting still (or when turning at slow speeds) this made sense to me so I had 'em do it (to the tune of $1,000!!).

They insist that nothing else was loose or abnormally worn. But the clunking noise (which sounds like the suspension is about to come unglued from the front end) persists. The steering (play in the wheel, directional stability, etc...) seems much better (it should be!) but the little clicking or knocking noise is still there when I turn the wheel.

Any ideas anyone??? I'm desperate. Owning this car is a lot like being Mrs. Kravitz on the old sit-com "Bewtiched". Remember how she was the only one that would ever witness Samantha doing her witchcraft, but by the time she dragged her husband over to peek in the Stevens' window to witness it, Samantha (or one of her relatives) had zapped everything back to normal. Then Mr. Kravitz would give Mrs. Kravitz that condescending look that told her he thought she was crazy or making the whole thing up.

Well, my car is Samantha, I'm Mrs. Kravitz, and every mechanic I've taken it to has given me that look.



  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Member Posts: 872
    Might be struts. They make bad noises when they go bad, and are more than likely the culprit. It could also be the strut plate, it is the part that the strut bolts to at the top, and it bolts to the car. It allows the strut to turn when you turn the wheel. If it goes bad you will hear a clicking sound when the wheel is turned, and it will clunk around when you hit rough roads or bumps. Only way to check that is to take it to a good alignment shop, tell them what you think it may be. Some models you have to pull the strut to check it all out. Being a '96 it is probably a good guess it could use a set of struts anyway. 2 front struts and alignment (needed if struts are removed or changed) should run around $250. I prefer Monroe Sensa Trac, myself.

    How many miles are on the car?
  • Bode13Bode13 Member Posts: 19
    ....several people, I too am now convinced that it must have something to do with the struts and/or strut mounts. However, the shop I go to said I should just wait until the struts start leaking before getting them replaced, along with any mounting hardware, brackets, plates, etc...that I might need as well.

    One question, can struts go "bad" without leaking. Couldn't a strut be broken or worn on the inside, even if the seal hasn't started to give way, releasing all the gas-charged oil inside? If so, I don't want to wait until they start leaking, especially if it's going to be a safety concern.
  • Bode13Bode13 Member Posts: 19
    The car has approximately 83,000 miles on it right now.
  • lngtonge18lngtonge18 Member Posts: 2,228
    Struts can wear out internally without leaking any oil. They just begin to bob up and down more or make clunking sounds. Struts do usually have a rubber strut mount where it connects to the top of the fender. When this mount wears out, it will cause clunking noises everytime you hit a bump or make a turn because the bearing inside the mount is no longer supported properly. These mounts are known to fail around 50K or so, even earlier on older VWs (which generally only last 30K). You may just need those and not the entire strut, although the Cavalier and Sunfire twins are known for strut problems, especially on the 95-97 models. I say replace the struts, they only have another 15K or so left on them anyway. Just make sure they replace the strut mounts as well. I think that should cure the clunking.
  • montanafanmontanafan Member Posts: 945
    GM TSB#53-32-02B Knocking noise heard at low speeds over rough roads. Replace rack bearing. A knocking noise coming from the front of the vehicle when driving between 9 and 12 mph over rough roads. A knocking noise heard while driving straight ahead on vehicles built prio r to the VIN#s listed may be corrected by replacing the steering gear rack bearing and spring with a service kit #26063086 $9.40. Estimated time (per GM ) 1.3hrs R & R Rack. A knocking noise heard while turning and driving over a bump at the same time (2.2L 4Cyl) may be corrected by installing a power steering restrictor valve #22592200 $2.20 into the pump reservoir inlet (only on vehicles with steering cooler pipes). Estimated time (per GM) .2hrs.
  • 00impala00impala Member Posts: 474
    My Wife owns a 1999 Cavalier Z24 and it has made front end clunks since new 3/99...It now has a super low 16,800 miles and this persistant clunk when turning left or right,Mostly form the right side, but recently I noticed that is comes from the drivers side too, It has been back to the dealer about 5 times, first they would just "grease" something, that seened to last for a week, Now the last time, I took the Suspension Guy for a ride, "Wouldn't make the noise"...Figures...I hear it everyday! They checked the STRUT PLATES, they were fine, they replaced the Psge side motor Mount, IT STILL MAKES THIS POPPING NOISE! I am going to the Service Director personally in the near future, Maybe we can go for a legnthy ride, It has to be some Tie Rod End, or the Struts themselves, It is a loud "CLOOONK" When you turn the wheel at speed, it is quiet while turning sitting still. Thanks Don
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Member Posts: 872
    Yours may be a bad CV shaft, AKA half shaft those usually make popping sounds when turning and not standing still. I find it kind of funny that the greased some stuff and it went away, they may have injected grease into the cv boot with a needle attachment, and that may stop it for a while. Most of the front end components don't even have grease fittings!
  • 00impala00impala Member Posts: 474
    I had a conversation with the Service Director and he scheduled another Appointment for this Friday concerning the "CLUNK"....As I mentioned it was there numerous times and I forgot to mention that on the 3rd trip they replaced the Steering Shaft. No help....then the Motor Mount on the last trip, No help. I hope they can rectify the problem. he mentioned the Steering Rack, I don't know much about the Suspension on the Z24 but do they have Tie Rod Ends? I remember having those replaced on an old Ford Tempo that had front end woes. Again Thanks Don
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Member Posts: 872
    Yes, you do have tie rods. Steering rack may cause the problem. Make sure they check for recalls, and service bulletins.
  • oldharryoldharry Member Posts: 413
    Turn the wheels on your car as far as they will go to side away from the noise, and turn the key off to lock the column. Now get down with your flash light and look in the wheel well behind the wheel where you hear the noise. There is a bushing in the rear corner of the lower control arm about 2 1/2 inches in diameter with a verticle bolt through the center. If you see the edges of rubber coming out of the outer steel sleeve of the bushing, the control arm can bang on the frame rail on bumps. Bushings (available for some models) are about $14 and a hour each to change. Control arms are now about $90 (were $160 last year) for those that bushings are not available, and about 1.2 hours each to replace. I find this problem eight or ten times a year, on the 1500 or so cars through the shop. (Beretta's, Cavalier's, Sunfire's, Corsica's, Grand Am's and similar cars)

  • dweezildweezil Member Posts: 271
    I believe that refers to a piece called the
    intermediate steering shaft that's been replaced on "J"s with this problem.I was told that it's noisy, but won't affect the steering.It is "connected to the U joint coupling to the steering gear"- quote:Haynes Manual 10-13 GM Cavalier/ Sunfire.It was replaced anyway with an improved piece,no questions asked. Nice experience, great dealer.
    Hope this provides you with another lead. I quoted the manual so that perhaps someone with more technical experience might explain it better.Sounds like it's coming from the center of the car? Can you feel it when parking especially? And in your foot? It sounds like the same thing. Dave
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